Liberated French gambling market attracts many operators

30 applications are in the works

The attractions of a newly liberated French online gambling market, estimated to be worth Euros 1.4 billion on sportsbetting alone by 2011, have triggered keen interest among operators in obtaining French licensing. Initial reports indicate that up to 100 licenses may be granted.

Les Echos reported this week that 30 companies have already made application to the new French regulator ARJEL, according to its general secretary, Frederic Epaulard, who said that candidates could be licensed in three categories.

ARJEL will grant licenses for five years renewable for each of the three categories: horse betting, sports betting and poker. The authority's Cahier des Charges (Specification Requirements List) lays down the conditions which must be fulfilled by online gambling operators seeking a license to offer games of chance to French consumers.

The requirements are contained in a 37 page document composed of 11 main chapters. Applicants are required to provide comprehensive economic, accounting and financial information, along with full details of the applicant’s online gambling website including details on the processing of players’ accounts, any sub-contracted activities and what internal controls and procedures are in place.

Licensing fees payable to ARJEL may vary according to the number of licenses requested. For a single licence, the fee is reportedly Euro 5 000; for 2, Euro 8 000 and for 3, Euro 10 000.

Some requirements deal specifically with the treatment of information with regard to CNIL [data protection] obligations, and there are stringent provisions to guard against problem and underage gambling and the exclusion of organised crime.

Technical architecture of the applicant’s online gambling website is also covered, particularly regarding IT security and the fairness of software.

Corporate transparency is a firm requirement, with applicants having to furnish full documentation regarding company directors and indeed “all individuals or parties owning more than 5 percent of the capital or voting rights…as well as those, controlling them.”

Financial stability is also a non-negotiable requirement; applicants must deliver up financial information and guarantee that they will not default on the payments or winnings of the players.

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